Curator’s Pick: “Baseball Pitcher” by Ott and Brewer

Curator’s Pick: Baseball Pitcher by Ott and Brewer

Curator of Decorative Arts Brian Gallagher discusses this modeled sculpture of a baseball pitcher, made at the Trenton, New Jersey ceramics manufactory run by Joseph Ott and John Hart Brewer. In 1873, they hired the Canadian-born sculptor Isaac Broome to create a prototypical American work for their firm to display at the Centennial International Exposition that opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 10, 1876. This sculpture is made of Parian, a type of porcelain that has more feldspar in its body than conventional porcelain and is fired at a lower temperature. These conditions give the Baseball Pitcher its ivory color and smooth, marble-like texture.

Curators’ Pick: “Farol” by Elaine de Kooning

Curator’s Pick: Farol by Elaine de Kooning

Jonathan Stuhlman, PhD, senior curator of American Art at The Mint Museum, discusses Farol, Elaine de Kooning’s 1958 painting inspired by bullfights she attended Sunday afternoons in Juarez, Mexico. “Farol” refers to the movement made by bullfighters, sweeping their capes out of the way as the bull charged by. The piece captures the motion, energy, and action of the fight itself. Although long overlooked, the work of de Kooning and her other female Abstract Expressionist colleagues has recently received greater attention thanks in part to exhibitions like Women of Abstract Expressionism hosted at The Mint Museum hosted in 2016.

Curator’s Pick: “Figures Eight” by Doris Leeper

Curator’s Pick: Figures Eight by Doris Leeper

Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, chief curator and curator of contemporary art at The Mint Museum, explains the significance of works by mid-century modernist Doris Leeper. Leeper, who worked in painting and sculpture, hints at her interest in the three-dimensional in the painting Figures Eight. Leeper was born in Charlotte in 1929 but moved out of state. She maintained a presence in North Carolina, however, participating in the Mint’s juried competition series Piedmont Exhibition.

Curators’ Pick: “Autarchy” by Formafantasma

Curator’s Pick: Autarchy by Formafantasma

An intriguing installation created by the design group Formafantasma in its studio in the Netherlands, Autarchy explores the idea of how we might make functional vessels for the home from locally sourced, natural materials, while paying homage to the craft of baking and cooking. Autarchy is an outstanding example of the way in which designers and makers think and work like scientists, researching and experimenting with materials and formulas to create, solve problems, and achieve amazing results. This piece was made especially for The Mint Museum with the assistance of Mint staff and is on view in the Craft + Design permanent collection galleries at Mint Museum Uptown in the installation Craft in the Laboratory: The Science of Making Things.

Curators’ Pick: “Bracelets” by Marcus Amerman

Curators’ Pick: Bracelets by Marcus Amerman

Marcus Amerman, a multimedia artist who is best known for his pictorial beadwork that combines Native American tradition with imagery from contemporary popular culture, designed and created these two cuff bracelets depicting the Dalai Lama and agents Mulder and Scully from the television hit series X Files. Amerman grew up in a family of artists and learned beading at age 10 from his Choctaw aunt who had married into the Hopi tribe. In 1982, he drew upon the multitude of cultural influences he had experienced to create his own style of beadwork.

The bracelets are on view in Craft + Design permanent collection galleries and the Craft in the Laboratory: The Science of Making Things.

The Mint Museum from Home is Presented By Chase.

Curators’ Pick: “Weathervane” by Brent Kington

Curators’ Pick: Weathervane by Brent Kington

Assistant Curator of Craft, Design, and Fashion, Rebecca Elliot offers insight on the sculpture Weathervane by artist-blacksmith Brent Kington, part of a series of sculptures inspired by the weathervanes of Kington’s youth in Kansas. With nothing but gravity holding the two parts together, Weathervane is able to spin, but also to pitch and roll slightly in a breeze or if touched. While the sculpture is meant to be enjoyed indoors rather than to gauge the wind’s direction on a farm, it alludes to nature with the two differently sized disks representing the sun and moon. 

Weathervane is on view in the Craft + Design permanent collection galleries as part of Craft in the Lab: The Science of Making Things.

The Mint Museum from Home is Presented By Chase.

Works by artist My Loan Dinh that explore the human condition

In My Loan Dinh’s series “(Re)constructing the space in-between,” objects, covered in eggshells, appear fragile; but they are strong — strong enough to break glass. “I reach for these tools not only to break barriers, but also to build, forge, and construct new paths towards freedom and equality. Many things, like stones and bullets, can shatter glass. I am here to build,” Dinh says.

‘Broken, but in one piece’

Charlotte artist MyLoan Dinh explores the human condition – and the search for home

By Page Leggett

MyLoan (pronounced “mee-LAHN”) Dinh has been working with an unusually delicate medium: eggshells.

The Vietnamese-American artist, who splits her time between Charlotte and Berlin, uses them to encase objects — passports, hammers, boxing gloves. “With boxing gloves, you think of fighting,” she says. “I love the idea of pairing things that are complete opposites. There’s a tension there — a deeper meaning that starts a conversation.”

People might see the eggshell mosaics and think of the destructiveness of violence or the fragility of life. But for life to begin, the egg has to be open, to be broken, Dinh says. And brokenness is part of being human.

“I like creating something whole out of fragments,” she continues. “I like this idea that even though we might be broken, we’re in one piece. We’re going to be OK.”

The MInt Museum_MyLoan Dinh
MyLoan Dinh, United States (born in Vietnam), 1972– . “Off White,” 2019. Boxing gloves, eggshells, acrylic. Museum purchase made possible by the Charles W. Beam Endowment Fund.

From coop to kitchen to studio

Working with eggshells is tedious and time-consuming. Dinh starts by procuring eggs. She has to boil the eggs, crack and peel them. Then, she methodically places each tiny piece onto the object with an adhesive. She uses a stick pin or a needle; her fingers are too big for the job. Once the entire object is covered, she fills in with even tinier shell shards. She doesn’t want too much of a gap between fragments.

Each object gets covered in five or six protective layers. Something fragile has been made durable.

Some of the “eggshell art” was featured in Dinh’s installation for Constellation CLT — an exhibition series that spotlights local artists — this spring and summer at Mint Museum Uptown.

“I think it’s wonderful that museums are starting to look for artists in their backyard,” Dinh says. “There’s a lot of talent here. And why not expose the community to those artists? It’s wonderful that part of the community can now see themselves in these spaces.”

The part of the community she’s referring to: Asian-Americans. “When I was growing up, I couldn’t see myself in a museum setting because I didn’t have any role models,” she says. “I couldn’t name a single Asian artist. I saw some Asian art, but it was more like artifacts. So, this Constellations program is really amazing.”

‘A place we can call home’

She and her family were on one of the last ships out of Saigon in 1975. Dinh was 4. She has no memory of her homeland but still feels connected to her culture.

Her story is deeply personal, but there’s a universality to it. “Everyone deserves safety,” she says. “We all deserve the same basic human rights, the opportunity to live in dignity and to somehow find a place we can call home.”

Finding her way to safety was harrowing. For six days, they were forbidden to dock because the ships belonged to the now-defunct South Vietnamese government. “We were stateless,” she says.

The U.S.S. Kirk was the first, and then dozens of former South Vietnamese Navy ships, cargo and fishing boats lowered the Vietnamese flag and raised the American one. That was just the beginning.

Dinh’s family went to three different U.S. refugee camps before a Lutheran church in Boone agreed to sponsor them. “We’re still in touch with the pastor and his wife,” Dinh says. “At the time, there was this — not really, anti-Asian hate — but fear. People were afraid for different reasons: Would we be able to adjust? Were we Communists? Half the congregation wasn’t sure should they take us in. The minister told them, ‘As people of God, we have to.’”

They came to Charlotte because there was a bigger Vietnamese population here and it’s a bigger city. Dinh’s parents wanted to find their community.

Dinh herself has found a large creative community here. She and her husband — Till Schmidt-Rempler, a former dancer and choreographer — frequently host musicians, poets, storytellers and dancers in the 1935 log cabin that’s home to the couple and their teenage daughter. (Their son is working toward a PhD in art history in London.)

Evolution of an artist

Dinh’s work has evolved a lot since she first picked up a paintbrush to create what she calls “representational, figurative work.” It didn’t take long for her to expand her subject matter and media; she experiments to stave off boredom. In recent years, she’s been diving into storytelling.

“I began revisiting stories about what my family faced when I was growing up,” she says. “Much of that stuff, you just push away. You focus on your survival. You don’t want to bring it up because you think: ‘I’m resilient, I need to move on.’ But I felt it was time to pull it out slowly because of this shift in America, this racial reckoning.”

She doesn’t consider herself a political artist, but rather an artist concerned with social justice.

She hopes viewers see that concern in her work. “I think it’s good to let viewers enjoy the pieces for what they are, but I also like the idea of them reading my artist’s statement to understand why I made the piece. My message is that we need to find a way to share space with each other.”

‘My daughter ate it’

Dinh doesn’t always use food in her art — although she has coated everyday objects in candy conversation hearts — but she was inspired to create an installation last year using a ubiquitous Asian dessert.

“I created a fortune cookie installation the day after six Asian women were murdered [in Atlanta],” she says. “I just made it, held it in my hand and photographed it for social media. And, when Jen [Sudul Edwards] said she wanted to show it, I had to tell her: It was a real fortune cookie, and my daughter ate it. But I can get more.”

There are six fortune cookies in that little installation, she says, one for each of the six women murdered. The fortunes have numbers on them, and they are real telephone numbers to an actual hotline, Dinh says.

With her eggshell art, Dinh is a purist. She leaves the shells the colors nature intended. But she wanted dark brown eggs for several pieces — and went searching.

“There’s a chocolate brown egg that comes from a fancy French chicken called the Marans chicken, she says. “I joined a Facebook group of people who raise chickens and asked if anybody had Marans chickens. They were so responsive; I’ve been getting eggshells in the mail. Chicken people are really good people.

“You never know where you’ll find your community. And community is really another word for ‘home’.”

Page Leggett’s writing appears regularly in The Charlotte Observer, Business North Carolina and SouthPark magazine. Besides writing, her other great passions are travel and art collecting. The first art lessons she took were at Mint Museum Randolph.

This story previously published in the Winter 2021 Inspired member magazine.

A Q&A With André Leon Talley

André Leon Talley and Oscar de la Renta at Book Signing, Rizzoli Books, New York
Created: July 2005
Shareif Ziyadat, © Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images

Q&A with legendary fashion icon André Leon Talley 

The curator of the Mint’s exhibition The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta and star of the fashion world spoke to the Mint’s director of public relations and publications in 2018 just before the opening of the exhibition. Following is the article that published in the Winter 2018 INSPIRED member magazine.

By Leigh Dyer  

CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU GOT TO KNOW OSCAR DE LA RENTA? 

My first meeting with Oscar was in December 1975, when he and his first wife, the late Francoise de la Renta, invited me at the last minute to their table for two at the annual Met Costume Institute dinner. It was held in December in those days, and it was a very small, intimate society dinner and celebrity-filled. Diana Vreeland had spoken so highly of me to the de la Rentas that he simply made space for me at his already seated table. 

 WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF HIM? 

My first impression and my lasting impression, was he was a great man of impeccability, elegance, well-groomed, and polite. He also had a wonderful charm and smile. His whole being simply exuded a natural nobility of goodness and sunshine, warmth, laughter, and generosity. All the real things that matter. I miss him every day and his second wife, Annette, was also a close friend of the first Mrs. de la Renta. They both love beauty and comfort, nothing over the top, as the late Bunny Mellon said, “nothing should be noticed.” 

 WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF HIM? 

 I loved watching Oscar dance and sing. He was the best dancer and did the best merengue. He was so soigné, even dancing. And swimming, in his native Dominican Republic. He also had a voice that was as rich and warm as his heart. He was kind, but he also had a wicked sense of humor, loved telling the anecdotal historical narrative of French high society in fashion-for example he went to some of the famous Paris society balls. And I loved him telling the narrative of those glamorous women. 

WHY DO YOU THINK HIS DESIGNS WERE SO SUCCESSFUL AT CONNECTING WITH THE PUBLIC AND POPULAR CULTURE? 

 His designs impact everyone, from the 8-year-old girl to the 80-year-old grand dame. I fondly remember a young girl being brought by her parents to de Young in San Francisco for the retrospective on Oscar, and she was so impressed by the pale pink tulle dress and hat and veil, inspired by Madame Bovary. It was actually a wedding dress in a Pierre Balmain collection in Paris, designed beautifully by Oscar. So romantic, so rich in romantic history. Oscar always wanted to make women beautiful; he didn’t care about being an artist, he wanted to make dresses that were worn and admired by the women who loved them. Embedded in every bow and every nuance of taffeta flourish, every flounce of velvet edged in sable and embroidery, was his sense of romance. The body of work from his beginnings at Lanvin Castillo to his early youth in Spain anchor him in the historical context of romantic and glamorous design. He loved so much to realize clothes that were exuberantly baroque in surface, yet weighted in elegant simplicity. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS HIS MOST IMPORTANT LEGACY IN THE FASHION WORLD? 

There are three designers I think of who have left a lasting mark in the realm of modern fashion that is romantic: Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent. All three of these titans of talent, I know or knew personally. In the hands of each, a dress, a coat, or a suit became a poem! 

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH LONGTIME MINT SUPPORTER MARIANNA SHERIDAN? 

I worked closely with Marianna and she was quiet, yet fiercely passionate about Oscar de la Renta. She loved the designer so much, she had a family home built in the Dominican Republic. I always looked forward to her e-mails with another glorious find. She frequently would seek my advice on if she should or should not acquire certain looks, but she was somehow drawn to the glorious pieces that always reflected the best of Oscar’s designs. Under her direction, the de la Renta archives became a wonderful resource, a literal goldmine of offerings in every category. We were friends, and I had a deep respect for her dedication and her work. She had a love of beauty, luxury, and elegance.  

WHAT ARE YOU HOPING THAT VISITORS TO THE EXHIBITION WILL COME AWAY WITH? 

I hope visitors wi11 take away a breathtaking sense of Oscar’s love of texture and fabric, color, and complex layerings of details of the world of couture conceits. Romantic ruffles and the glory of Spain’s culture in the arts, and flamenco, the bullring, and the idea of the warmth of the sun in Sevilla on a beautiful day is somehow in the very cut of the cloth. More than anything, he was a true romantic and loved life, and he showed that in his love of gardens, garden motifs, flowers. 

THIS EXHIBITION HAS COINCIDED WITH THE PREMIERE OF YOUR NEW DOCUMENTARY, “THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE.” 

I am proud the documentary opens at the same period this spring as the exhibit. Kate Novack, director, narrates brilliantly my humble beginnings in Durham, N.C. and how I soldiered through the “chiffon trenches” for decades to arrive at the heights of my career, landing at Vogue for nearly two decades. I am still aligned to Vogue as a contributing editor and consider Dame Anna Wintour a close friend. She has supported me throughout my career and I am blessed to have her [in my life]. The documentary received the Whistler prize last December at the Whistler Film Festival, as World Documentary. 

 It’s a great honor to curate this, my third exhibition since Oscar de la Renta died. I considered Oscar one of my close friends and I think of him every day as I do so many wonderful people who have passed away: Yves Saint Laurent, Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol (who gave me my first job in fashion in 1975), and Azzedine Alaia. I am also proud of the books I published in collaboration with SCAD in Savannah, Georgia, published by Rizzoli, Little Black Dress and Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style. 

Lydia Thompson in her studio

24 hours in the life of artist Lydia Thompson

Lydia Thompson in her studio
Artist Lydia Thompson at work in her home studio.

On the daily: 24 hours in the life of artist Lydia Thompson

By Liz Rothaus Bertrand

For Lydia Thompson, a working artist and professor of ceramics at UNC Charlotte, the past is always present. She is fascinated by “our abodes,” and how we interact with them. Inside these spaces, we carry our own stories, as well as those of former inhabitants and vestiges from our lives elsewhere. Thompson’s recent work focuses on issues such as forced displacement, gentrification, and what gets left behind when a home is abandoned. 

“You can see the emotions of a structure when it starts to deteriorate, especially when it’s been abandoned,” Thompson says. “You can see layers and layers of cultures that lived in there.” 

As Thompson wraps up a three-year term as UNC Charlotte’s chairperson of the department of art and art history, she’s also looking toward the future. After spending much of her career in leadership positions at universities throughout the United States, she is eager to return to a schedule with more time for teaching, studio work, and leading community workshops. 

“I really love working with the community,” she says, “because the artwork just sits in the gallery and I want to bring it alive.”  

While her weekdays have been mostly filled with administrative duties she finds time for studio work on the weekend. Take a look at a typical Saturday for the renowned ceramic artist, filled with her sketchbook, the kiln, and some thought provoking documentaries. 

Lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

5 AM: I wake up and start my day with some personal reading. The books I’m reading are always centered around projects I’m working on. Books I’ve recently read include Feeding the Ghosts by Fred D’Aguiar, Root Shock by Mindy Thompson Fullilove, and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

6 AM: I check emails, maybe look at Instagram, and have two cups of coffee, followed by a full breakfast of pancakes or eggs. I reserve the yogurt and oatmeal for Monday through Friday. I keep a sketchbook nearby at all times. Because I don’t have a lot of time to work in the studio, I’m always making lists.

7:30 AM: I head down to my basement studio — I am happy to finally have a dedicated studio space — and open the kiln. Even though I know what the result is going to be, I love the anticipation. The excitement of seeing a fired piece never goes away. 

Because slabs are heavy, I work on them while I have the most energy of the day. I spend a couple of hours focused rolling out and flipping slabs. I use a template and make a cardboard model before I actually cut anything out to be sure it’s going to work when I put it together.  

While working, I usually put on the television show “Columbo” or listen to a podcast. I feel like detective Columbo is the underdog who is misunderstood. I think of myself and my career in terms of being misunderstood sometimes. People see me and never think I’m the director or the person in the leadership role at UNC Charlotte because I’m an African American woman. They’re always surprised when they find out who I am. 

I also enjoy listening to podcasts. I love Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us,” and “Business of HYPE,” with host Jeff Staple. 

9:30 AM: If I have slabs set up, I start building the interior structure and putting the walls together. I start busting up things, making rubble so I can dip all of it in glaze and put it in the piece.  

11:30 AM: It’s time to glaze. I look at the wooden bases and check the inventory of what needs to be done before setting up. I usually glaze my pieces three or four times. 

Noon: I take a lunch break, which is usually leftovers — homemade pizza, maybe a salad or a tuna sandwich — and enjoy time in my backyard with a quick stretch and check on the garden my fiancé planted. We have green beans, tomatoes, cucumber, squash, lettuce, and green peppers.

1:30 PM: Back to the studio. I set up the piece a little more and then do some glazing. This takes time and can be tedious because I put masking tape where I want another color to appear. But it gives me the result I’m after. I glaze for an hour and a half and then let it dry.

2 PM: I get another cup of coffee that I don’t really need.

3 PM: I’m always working on two or three pieces at the same time, so it’s helpful to review where I am with projects. I go back to my sketchbook and then I repeat the cycle I began at the start of the day, except for the slab rolling. 

Studio time is so important. It’s dedicated time to work and to review work you’ve done, especially the work that wasn’t successful. Even though you want to throw it in the trash, you’ve got to look at it and say, “Why did this not work?”

6 PM: It’s time to get dinner ready. We try to eat healthy, and I walk every day after dinner and sometimes in the morning, too. I also stretch. It helps to keep your body in tune, especially if you’re doing ceramics.

7:30 PM: My fiancé and I unwind watching movies, but I’m sketching all the time — at night, when I’m in bed or while I’m looking at the TV. I look through the sketches and pull out the ones I think will work. 

We like to watch suspense, thriller, love stories, and futuristic movies. I love documentaries. With the Black Lives Matter movement in focus, I’ve been watching documentaries, such as Black Wall Street, Amend, Coded Bias, and I Am Not Your Negro about African American history. They’re tear jerkers for me because this is reality. I think we’ve come really far, but the only way we can change certain mentalities is to start when people are very young. It’s hard to understand unless you actually walk in someone else’s shoes. I just don’t want people’s eyes to roll when we continue to have these conversations because it really has impacted lives. The way you treat a certain group of people still has an impact on their life and where they are in this country. There’s just no way around it.

9:30 PM: I go to bed fairly early. By 9:30 or 10 o’clock, I’m out. I’m done.

Liz Rothaus Bertrand is a writer and editor based in Charlotte who is passionate about the arts.  

Curators’ Pick: “Untitled” by Beauford Delaney

Curators’ Pick: Untitled by Beauford Delaney

Beauford Delaney was one of the most highly regarded Black artists working with abstraction in the 1940s and ’50s. Senior Curator of American Art at The Mint Museum Jonathan Stuhlman, PhD, discusses Delaney’s captivating untitled painting from 1959. Its energy, life and gorgeous palette of dashingly applied yellows, pinks, blues, and greens, are among key factors that distinguished it from other works by Delaney. 

The Mint Museum from Home is Presented By Chase.